Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme
by Nancy Werlin
Imagine if the lyrics to a popular song were not merely poetic words set to music, but a list of tasks one must complete or risk going mad. This is the main premise of Werlin's book Impossible in which seventeen year old Lucy Scarborough, a perfectly rational girl, is told that she must complete the impossible tasks described in a version of the ballad "Scarborough Fair" before giving birth to her child (I should mention here that at the beginning of the novel she has no boyfriend and is a virgin). Having been raised by foster parents after her biological mother became mentally ill and took to a life in the streets, when Lucy first learns of the ballad and the tasks, she dismisses it as nonsense. However, after a bizarre turn of events on prom night leads to Lucy's becoming pregnant, she begins to reconsider, and, ultimately, pursues the accomplishment of the tasks after learning that all of her family records indicate that generations of women in her family have given birth at seventeen and descended into madness.
When I first read the premise, I found myself thinking it sounded a bit far-fetched, but Werlin tells it as a modern fairy tale, and I found myself completely immersed within the first few chapters. The characters are also all very likable, so it was easy for me to invest myself in them and their plight; I wanted them very much to succeed. And just as much as Lucy and her family are likable, the antagonist, Padraig Seeley is just as detestable. He is exactly as Sidhean in the previously reviewed Ash should have been: calculating, cold, and merciless.
Something I found particularly refreshing was that despite the presence of magic, curses, and the faerie realm, the mundane characters did not rely on magic, but rather science and logic to break Padraig's curse. Additionally, this helped to reinforce the modern setting of the novel, replete with medical records and a healthy dose of skepticism.
My only complaint is that some of the events, especially the ending, are a bit too neat for my liking. The presence of the boy-next-door, Zach, is all too convenient for the necessary romance of the novel, and as much as I (and probably most of the novel's target audience) like him, I seriously have to question how quickly he and Lucy not only realized their feelings for each other, but acted upon them. For a novel that otherwise asked its audience to be rational, I found this to be a bit off-base.